Inventing the end of the world

So the last Rapture date has come and gone (October 21, to those of you who were wholly unaware), the crazy Rapture-calculating website that’s been wrong twice in the past two months has apparently been moving the goalposts like this for over a year now. It makes one definitive claim that we should remember though:

God is very exacting in keeping His appointments.

Maybe. If there is such a thing as Yahweh. And if such a deity would bother to tell humankind what his appointments are to begin with, which evidently he did not as nobody’s gotten it right yet. If such a deity doesn’t exist, then it’s just a bunch of human beings making shit up over and over again for the nearly two thousand years since the original predictions were made in Revelations (which were by the way supposed to occur during the lifespan of the people who originally wrote it!). At what point do Christians just give up and admit they’re wrong about this whole thing? How many times do they get to pull random dates out of their asses and have no repercussions for fooling credulous people into doing incredibly destructive things thinking they’re on some deadline that’s actually demonstrably invented from whole cloth?

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And what does it say about the “religion of love and hope” that it not only looks forward to Armageddon, it prophesies it over and over and bloody over again? And they wonder why we call it a death cult…

Whatever you anchor on, influences later decisions

Something I’ve long suspected when it comes to irrationality and folks that get so wrapped up in justifying their irrational worldviews is that, whatever your mind latches onto and “anchors” itself with first, heavily influences what decisions come afterward. This wholly explains people who have a single meme at the core of their black-and-white worldview and who build up lie and justification and apology into a form of armor to protect that kernel of their worldview against all scrutiny or critical analysis. A scientific study blogged at Rat Race Trap strongly backs this up:

Consider this experiment. A group of students were shown a series of products. There were a couple of bottles of wines, a couple of computer components, and a couple of unrelated products. Each student was given a sheet with the products listed on it. They were asked to write the last two digits of their social security number at the top of the page. Mine are 43 so I would have written “43” at the top of the page. Then they were asked to write that number in the form of dollars (e.g. $43) next to each product listed. Then they were asked to write whether they would pay that amount (e.g $43) for each product by writing yes or no next to each product. Finally they were asked write the maximum amount they would pay for each product. In this case they were actually bidding on the products and the top bidder would actually win the auction.

Now here is the wacky part of all this. The fact that the students contemplated a decision at a completely arbitrary price, the last two digits of their social security number, very heavily influenced what they were willing to pay for the product. The students denied that the anchor influenced them, but the data shows something totally different. Correlations ranged from 0.33 to 0.52. Those are extremely significant.

The students with social security numbers in the top 20% (80-99) placed bids from 216% to 346% higher than those with social security numbers in the bottom 20% (01-20). As an example, the top 20% bid an average of $56 for a cordless keyboard while the bottom 20% bid an average of $16!

It doesn’t matter what idea anchors you — you’ll revert to it or allow it to shape your future decisions whether the initial meme is completely arbitrary or deliberately crafted. Think about this in context of the religious folks I battle with daily, or the more recent animal rights activists that have as pernicious of dogmas to which they cling but could never justify or even delineate when directly asked to do so.

Office politics suck. At least I come out no worse on this one.

For the past year or so, I’ve been acting as Freelance Network Dude at my work. Given that I have no special training in networking, that I’d been trusted with it is amazing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Despite the fact that I don’t seem to have done any damage, and I’ve saved the day on a number of occasions, it seems my tenure in that role is nearly at an end. The second in command to my boss, our network architect (who I will refer to as Lieutenant Dan for no other reason than because that’s just what sprung to mind just now), has seemingly perpetually had more on his plate than he can handle, and while I was taking on what responsibilities I could when I could, the powers-that-be (e.g. the VP acting as my boss’ boss) saw fit to hire for him a lackey.

No, it wasn’t me they hired for this role. I’m not bitter about that at all, though by rights I should be at least a bit miffed for not even being asked. However, I’m fully aware I don’t have the training the powers-that-be were looking for. The fact that they were looking for a specific set of skills and they were looking to specifically alleviate certain strains that were showing in Lieutenant Dan’s workload, meant they had to tailor their hire to what they saw was needed.

My boss, however, is pretty awesome. He saw fit to try to move me sideways into a different elevated position that would keep me from feeling like I’d just been kicked back down into the ranks of the lowly on-site hardware technician. The boss was extremely up-front about what was happening behind the scenes after I specifically correctly divined the reason he was asking me to move sideways, due to the overlap this new hire caused, and he even intimated it will come with a raise (assuming his boss approves it). He’s also made overtures in the past about cross-training someone at my site to act as hardware technician so I can work on higher-end stuff, and he’s been consistently impressed (by my reckoning) with my problem-solving skills so he regularly tasks me with odd side-projects that I just love to tackle. So, with the massive re-formatting of the entire company’s ActiveDirectory structure, bringing it all under the same domain across multiple sites, he’s putting me in charge of the administration and maintenance of that AD domain.

This is a huge responsibility, and, though it’s not nearly as esoteric or fun as networking or Linux administration, it’ll keep me relevant despite the new lackey-hiring so I’m more than willing to do what needs doing. Aside from the fact that a lackey of my own as hardware technician would be instrumental in freeing up my time for more administrative concerns, I’m not terribly worried about the security of my job despite the fact that this lateral move might rattle others. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m not much of a dog-eater. I’m just glad the boss seems to be looking out for my best interests.

Dancing Mad, on piano

This brings back memories of the most epic boss fight of my formative years. That’s right — the baddest motherfucker to ever grace the SNES, Kefka.

Of course the boss battle wasn’t quite so epic for everyone. Genji Glove and Offering… so cheap.

By the way, yes, I think of my formative years in terms of what video games I played — for instance, my Catholic confirmation happened on the weekend I had rented Megaman 3, and I have vivid memories of playing Secret of Mana while listening to the Good Time Oldies hour (my introduction to 60s and 70s music) on the radio. Knights in White Satin is in fact forever associated in my mind to leveling up my Glove weapon skills.

On winning at dialogue

A dialogue is by its nature not a debate, because there is no moderator, there are no points scored, and both parties are expected to be slightly civil and take one another at face value. Both sides are also expected to listen. There are generally no winners. Unless you can manage to turn the dialogue into a monologue.

With that in mind, well-deserved and slightly belated congratulations on winning the dialogue go to the aptly named Babble, when Dr. Janet D. Stemwedel (better known on the blogosphere as Dr. Free-Ride, attempted to host an honest dialogue between the pro-testers and the animal rights activists.
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Someone Is Wrong On The Internet

Digital Cuttlefish, poet laureate of the intelligent internet community, has written a poem that, if set to music, could be my theme song.

And I’m not going to idly sit by!
What he says is a crock! So I’ll teach, tease, or mock
Till my internal clock thinks I live in Hong Kong
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
On a topic of interest to me,
And the rancor’s increased; I’m becoming a beast
And that glow in the East is becoming quite strong
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet

Yup. Describes me to a tee. Oh introspection, how I loathe thee.

Every Bill Nye episode ever

… is apparently on Youtube at the moment (part 2). Watch ‘em while they’re still up. If you can stand Bill Nye that is. Aside from the gratuitous repeating of terms and silly puns / stupid cover songs, I love the show, and I love that he honestly makes science approachable to kids. I never missed it on Saturday mornings.

If you have to watch any single episode, make it #69 (snicker) – Pseudoscience. James Randi makes an appearance!

The Part-1 playlist, episodes 1 to 50, is embedded below.

httpvp://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=986BAE2FE1655FF8

Twitter censors “No God”

End result of yesterday’s shenanigans: a bunch of theists stopped using Twitter because they were so butt-hurt that their own pithy statement re-tweet backfired. “No God” trended for seven hours, was removed from the list of Trending Topics once (briefly) during this time, and we know it was removed because it dropped from #1 to not-on-the-list.

After the full seven hours of trending, someone at Twitter decided to roll the “No God” trending topic with the “Know God” topic, which was trending much, MUCH lower (graphs rule!). This proves manual intervention on Twitter’s part, and I can only assume it was to appease those theists that proclaimed “ima delete mah page”. This censorship was probably in Twitter’s best interests, but certainly not in the best interests of free speech and I hope for a Streisand Effect style backlash. At one point, I tweeted myself, “Hey @twitter, you removing the still-trending “No God” is proof that theres no god, only people with root access.” and “I have an idea @twitter: if there really IS a god, let him/her remove the “No God” trending topic. (I’ll want logs though.)”

Way to kill a perfectly good footgun, Twitter. So not cool.

Julie at Attempts at Rational Behavior has the scoop.